Revised ADP: How long health and education sectors to remain neglected

The allocation in health and education sectors is relatively low in the annual development programme (ADP) in Bangladesh. The experts, however, say an increase in allocation in these two sectors will be deemed as an investment in the nation’s future. Like the developed countries, many developing nations allocate more funds to these two sectors.

Prothom Alo recently ran a report titled ‘Education, health sector allocation decreases in revised ADP’. We are concerned about it. Sources at the Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division of the planning ministry said the size of the revised ADP decreased by Tk 180 billion while allocation decreased by Tk 120 billion in the education sector and Tk 50 billion in the health sector due to slow progress in project implementation.

About 7 per cent of the revised ADP is allocated to the education sector. A total of Tk 172.23 billion has been allocated for 118 projects in the education sector, which is Tk 120 billion less than the allocation in actual ADP. On the other hand, Tk 120.66 billion has been allocated for 61 projects in the health sector, which is about 5 per cent of the revised ADP, as well as Tk 40 billion less than the allocation in the actual ADP.

Bangladesh spends the lowest percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) on health and education in the Asia-Pacific region. The country spends about 2 per cent of GDP on education and about 1 per cent on health. Improvement in the health and education sectors does not match with the development goal of the government.

Economists have long been advising for raising allocation in these two sectors. It would be a suicidal decision to reduce allocation in the revised ADP. South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (SANEM) executive director Selim Raihan told Prothom Alo, “Health and education sectors have fallen into a vicious circle. It is said that skills were not enhanced; when more allocation is made funds remain unspent.”

The government should take action against those who are hampering project progress. People cannot be deprived of education and healthcare due to the inefficiency and incompetency of project officials. Allocations in the health and education sectors were slashed when these two sectors were most affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The coronavirus pandemic brought the fragile state of our healthcare system to the fore. On the other hand, more allocations are necessary to overcome the damages caused by the pandemic.

Experts have been demanding more allocation in the health and education sector, but the government walks in the opposite direction. The transport and communication sector received the highest allocation of Tk 632.63 billion in the current fiscal, followed by the power and energy sector (Tk 378.97 billion).

Nobody denies the necessity of the development of these two sectors. Only the construction of infrastructures will not work. Human resources are necessary to operate these properly, which is why there is no alternative to increasing allocation in the health and education sectors. We expect policymakers will reconsider the matter and uphold the previous allocation in the revised ADP.